- The UK government gave its clearest sign yet that it plans to shift away from accepting European Union food standards in order to secure a post-Brexit trade deal with President Donald Trump.
- The UK farming industry fears that Prime Minister Boris Johnson will ditch EU standards forbidding the sale of products such as chlorinated chicken and hormone-injected beef.
- Johnson has refused to sign on to maintain EU rules after the end of the Brexit transition period.
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The United Kingdom gave its clearest sign yet that it plans to ditch its commitment to maintaining European Union food standards in order to secure a post-Brexit trade deal with President Donald Trump.
UK officials are set to break away from strict EU rules on sanitary and phytosanitary measures covering food and agricultural goods at an upcoming World Trade Organization meeting, City AM reported on Thursday.
The UK is in an 11-month post-Brexit transition period, during which it will continue to follow all EU rules and regulations, including those for food standards.
But at the WTO meeting, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government will make a “clear statement about future intentions” for how the UK will approach food standards in trade deals with the US and other countries, City AM said.
The National Farmers’ Union’s Brexit director recently told Business Insider that the industry feared the government would ultimately trade away UK food standards in talks with “fearsome” US negotiators.
“We all know in a trade negotiation, at some point, [the UK] is going to need to make concessions,” Nick von Westenholz told Business Insider.
“And this isn’t a negotiation with a small partner where the UK can flex its muscles.
“This is a negotiation with one of the largest economies in the world with an absolutely fearsome reputation for negotiating trade deals, and one which under the current administration is even more transactional in the way it views trade relationships.”
The EU’s rules on hygiene and animal welfare block US foods like chicken and beef from entering its markets.
While Johnson has said the UK will not lower its food standards after leaving the EU, he has also said his government’s policy will be dictated “by science and not by mumbo-jumbo.”
Johnson wants to break free from EU rules
Any shift away from EU rules at the WTO meeting would irk Brussels. The Brexit deal agreed by the UK ties the country to a “duty of sincere cooperation” clause that obliges both sides to act in good faith during the departure.
The NFU urged the government to include a legal commitment to maintaining food standards in a piece of legislation called the Agriculture Bill. However, ministers have refused to do so.
The UK is set to begin negotiating a trade deal with the US in the next few weeks.
The Trump administration has said it will prioritize access to Britain’s agricultural markets when trade talks begin.
The US trade representative’s objectives for negotiations, published last year, said the UK should “remove expeditiously unwarranted barriers that block the export of US food and agricultural products.”
It added that it sought to remove “unjustified trade restrictions” enforced in the UK as a result of its recently expired EU membership and “eliminate practices that unfairly decrease US market access opportunities.”